“Oh, I’m sorry! Please excuse me! What I meant was. ” So, just how DO you save face when you realize you’ve said the wrong thing – the really wrong thing – to someone? Here’s how to gracefully recover from foot-in-mouth syndrome, courtesy of Health magazine.
- You introduce your colleague, David, as Donald. Well, don’t deny your mistake or try or explain it away: “Uh, my brother’s name is Donald and I talked to him on the phone earlier so that’s where my head was. ” No one’s buying it. Instead, thank David for speaking up and correcting you. “I’m so glad you didn’t let my mistake slip by. So many people would have let me go on and on.” This is a great comeback line – it’s classy and direct.
- You complain about your mother-in-law’s cooking - and she overhears you. Well for starters – don’t get defensive about her eavesdropping. Two wrongs don’t make a right! Instead, pull her aside and apologize right away. Tell her, “I’m so sorry if my comment hurt your feelings. It wasn’t intentional.” Once you’ve established that, offer an honest but face-saving explanation. For example, you can admit that you’ve always been a picky eater.
- You inadvertently make a racist, sexist or anti-anybody comment in mixed company. For starters, DON’T rehash what you’ve said, trying to make it right. Dr. Kandi Walker is an associate professor of communication at the University of Louisville. And she says wait until people have cooled off, and then offer to clarify your comments. Remember – sincerity is the key here. Say something like, “I realize now what I said was insensitive, but I didn’t mean to insult anyone.” But that being said, you might not be able to fix this faux pas. Your words may not have come out the way you intended, but sometimes even good-hearted people can learn to be more sensitive. So use this as an opportunity to work on that.